I’m David Fullerton, Stack Overflow’s CTO, responsible for the product, engineering, and community teams.
I joined Stack Overflow in 2010 because I believed in the vision and mission of Stack Overflow. I wanted to be a part of building a community where programmers come together to help one another learn and share their knowledge with one another. I loved how the site was run in the open, in collaboration with its community, and moderated by members of the community.
I’m here nearly a decade later because I believe we can continue to build this community together and make it an even more welcoming and inclusive place than it is today.
In the last few weeks, we made a series of mistakes, both in our actions and in the ways that we communicated those actions. In doing so, we hurt people who believe in that mission and who want to help us make the community welcoming and open to all. While Sara and others were on the front lines of that, I was personally involved at each step along the way and ultimately responsible, and I’m deeply sorry for the hurt that we’ve caused.
First of all, we hurt members of our LGBTQ+ community when they felt they couldn’t participate authentically and we didn’t respond quickly or strongly enough in supporting them. Worse, through our handling of this situation, we made them a target for harassment as people debated their right to express themselves and be addressed according to how they identify.
I am responsible for that, and I am deeply sorry. We absolutely support the LGBTQ+ community, and we’re committed to making our community a place that is open and welcoming to everyone. We’re working on an update to our Code of Conduct which we’re sharing with moderators for feedback tomorrow and the rest of the community later this week. We’ll also work on making more resources and materials available to our moderators to help them support members of the community as we all learn together how to be more welcoming and inclusive.
Second, we hurt a longstanding member of the community and an important volunteer moderator. She deserved the benefit of a private, comprehensive process. In the absence of a clear process for handling this kind of situation, we should have taken inspiration from our existing Moderator Action Review Process. We made a decision to act quickly, which I personally approved, but in doing so skipped several critical parts of the process. In acting quickly, we also acted at a time which coincided with a Jewish holiday which she and many other members of our community observe, and we should have taken that more into account in the process.
I’m responsible for that, and I’m sorry. We’ll be reaching out to her directly to apologize for the lack of process, privacy, and to discuss next steps. We’ll keep those discussions completely private unless we both agree to share any of it with the community.
We’ll be sharing with our moderators this week our proposed processes for handling situations like this in the future. This includes a process for handling moderator removals, and a process for reinstating moderators who wish to be reinstated.
Third, we hurt the moderators and members of our communities. Community moderation is the backbone of Stack Overflow and Stack Exchange, and our moderators are a vital part of us creating a more welcoming and inclusive place. We need to be working with our moderators and community, rather than working against them, in order to create the kind of community where everyone feels welcome and able to share their knowledge.
I’m responsible for that as well, and I’m sorry for the hurt that we’ve caused. Going forward, we will be working with the community to overhaul how we gather input and feedback from our moderators and members of the community to make sure that your voices are heard and involved in the process, not just informed after decisions have been made.
Finally, I want to apologize again for all of the pain we have caused. I am more committed than ever to creating a welcoming and inclusive community across Stack Overflow and Stack Exchange, and the mistakes we made over the past few weeks made that worse, not better. I know we have lost the trust of many of you, and that trust must be re-earned over time by more than just words. That starts this week with some of the concrete steps we are taking with the moderator removal process and the Code of Conduct changes, but the hard work will continue for years. Those first steps are:
- On Monday, October 7, we’ll be sharing a second draft of an update to our Code of Conduct with all moderators for feedback
- On Thursday, October 10, the update to the Code of Conduct will be announced publicly
- By Friday, October 11, we’ll share the processes for moderator removal and reinstatement with moderators for their feedback
Looking forward, Stack Overflow is just beginning this new stage in its growth as a company. One of our top priorities across the entire team is to continue to make the community more inclusive and welcoming. We recognize that the community is the heartbeat of Stack Overflow, and we deeply appreciate all that you do. We know that our moderators care deeply about the future of our community, and we’re committed to involving you more as we evolve. We have an incredible opportunity to impact the world, and we hope that you will continue to join us on that mission.
Thank you for listening, and thank you for your patience with us as we continue to work our way through this.
This post was written with the input and support of Sara Chipps, Tim Post, and the community management team.